Parents are supposed to be the protectors of children, but these parents are either so damaged themselves that they can't do the job, greedy or villainous to the point that they never had any interest in doing the job properly, or would rather use the child as a means to an end. Sometimes they're just sadistic assholes.
This includes parents who are emotionally, verbally, physically, or mentally abusive, or who neglectfully allow their children to be abused by others if they don't abuse the child themselves; sexual abuse is typically treated as a special kind of evil. Sometimes, the abuse at the hands of their parents becomes a Freudian Excuse for a villain. Other times, the character manages to not grow up broken, bitter, and hateful, and instead a different and better person than the upbringing would incline one to think. Troubling Unchildlike Behavior is often a tell-tale sign that things are not right at home.
Abusive Parents are commonplace in fairy tales and Classical Mythology which makes this trope Older Than Feudalism. Note that The Brothers Grimm, when they collected European fairy tales, were uncomfortable with the idea of Abusive Parents and so frequently changed the Abusive Parents in the traditional stories into abusive step parents.
Sometimes, a parent will go as far as to kill the child in question, in which case this is Offing the Offspring. In other cases, the parent's abuse occasionally drives the offspring to snap, commit Revenge and finally kill them, thus becoming a Self-Made Orphan. Calling the Old Man Out occurs when a fed-up child retaliates with a The Reason You Suck Speech. If the child gets out of the broken family and forms healthy friendships, but reacts badly when their abusive parents show up again, well, Friends Are Chosen, Family Aren't.
Bear in mind that not everyone agrees on the line between actual abuse and merely heavy-handed parenting (or even normal parenting). Is Moving the Goalposts merely inspiring the child to achieve more, or the most insidious form of abuse to instill mistrust and paranoia to the children? Some include spanking as abuse; others think it's appropriate given certain guidelines. Some believe it's okay to make a kid go without a meal (they won't starve that easily); others disagree. Making a kid miss a friend's birthday sleepover — is that emotional abuse? Raising a kid without exposure to TV? Telling your daughter she's getting fat? A little friendly name-calling? There's a line here somewhere, but not everyone agrees on where it is.
If a parent has just dumped the child, for whatever reason, that's Parental Abandonment; if they aren't paying attention, that's Parental Neglect. If the parents refuse to discipline their kids, they are Pushover Parents. Contrast Mama Bear or Papa Wolf (where others abuse the children and the parents abuse the abusers), and the more extreme variant of Knight Templar Parent, where the abusive parent is violently overprotective. Abusive Precursors can be considered this on a metaphorical level. See Hilariously Abusive Childhood for when this is cranked up to absurd levels and played for laughs. Black Comedy is often connected in the comedic aspect of it, and a Big, Screwed-Up Family may be involved if it is adult comedy. In keeping with the above note, some may call the show on it and say Dude, Not Funny!. See Evil Matriarch and Archnemesis Dad for characters who are beyond abusive and outright evil. For parents who are mostly abused by their children, see Pushover Parents.
While they do not have to be the child's actual, technical parents to be part of this trope, it's pretty important that they are closely related and live together, like a Wicked Stepmother or an Evil Uncle taking care of the Parentally Deprived. After all, it's much more disgusting that somebody related to the child could bring themselves to hurt them, rather than a mere foster family.
The polar opposite, of course, are Good Parents.
NOTE: Please do not use this trope for complaining about parents you don't like.
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- Greek/Classical Mythology is full of child abuse.
- Ouranos and Cronos both made a practice of imprisoning their children at birth: Ouranos threw them in Tartaros or shoved them back in the womb, while Cronos swallowed them whole.
- Greek mortals abuse their children just as often in myth. For example, Echetus gouged out his daughter's eyes, chained her in a cellar, and made her grind iron chunks to dust. Acrisius locked his daughter Danae in solitary confinement to prevent her from having children, and then threw her in a box and dumped her in the sea when she got pregnant from Zeus. Mythical women suffer various physical punishments and sometime death for getting pregnant out of wedlock, even when they were raped. Beating kids barely even gets mentioned in Classical Greece, except i.e. when comedian Aristophanes mocks moral relativists by depicting them as opposed to beating.
- When Hephaestus was born, his mother Hera tossed him off a cliff because she thought he was too ugly. (He survived.)
- Kullervo in The Kalevala is abused so badly he becomes an Omnicidal Maniac and kills himself. At the end of the canto, Väinämöinen especially warns of abusing children, stating "a boy abused will never have the mind of a man".
- Prior to awareness campaigns of the 1980s, a child "physical abuse"-type promo was often played for laughs. More common with regional promotions that had their own syndicated TV programs, a heel wrestler or tag team would seriously and in a normal but concerned tone of voice deliver a promo recounting a supposed meeting with a sad-eyed boy or girl, who is crying because (s)he can no longer take his/her father's physical abuse, the wrestler then asking the child if he'd go live with his/her mother to which the boy claims she beats him/her also, then asking who he'd like to live with, to which the kid says, "I wanna go live with (whatever face wrestler/tag team said heels are currently feuding) ... because he/they don't beat nobody!" ... with the heel wrestler's demeanor suddenly turning from somber to mocking as he delivers the punch line.
- Vince McMahon often acted this way toward his son Shane McMahon, daughter Stephanie McMahon, and his out-of-wedlock "son" Hornswoggle in angles.
- When Shane returned to RAW on February 22, 2016, people at the stadium heard something that was censored from the TV broadcast.
- Raven claimed that both of his parents beat the crap out of him. CM Punk also said he had issues with his dad, and that he was going to beat Raven because he saw his father in Raven. Some cycle there, huh?
- Toward the end of 2005, Raw wrestler Shelton Benjamin began losing most of his matches. It wasn't long before his overbearing "Momma" (actually actress Thea Vidale in "granny" glasses and a muumuu) showed up on television to reprimand him, threatening to beat him (just as she supposedly did when he was a boy) if he didn't start winning matches. Benjamin began cheating to win or allowing Momma Benjamin to cheat for him, thus turning heel.
- Cheerleader Melissa would joke about how her rival, "Sweet" Saraya, would treat her kids and declared she was going to beat Britani Kight in her mother's steed when they met in SHIMMER.
- During his early hype vignettes, Bray Wyatt said his daddy was a mean man who made him work on his shrimping boat instead of going to school. Bray set fire to his dad's boat - and implied that his dad died in that fire.
- In Nameless, it's heavily implied that Miller's mom molested him, which could possibly be the reason why he's so screwed up.
- In Alfred's Playhouse, Alfred's parents were very neglectful of him, tried to drown him in the bathtub, and he is the result of an unsuccessful abortion. His abuse is the reason why he's so crazy.
- Many of the parents seen in "Grounded" GoAnimate videos will ground their kids for insanely long periods of time at the slightest provocation. Starting crying over scary dreams? Grounded for "Triple Infinity" because you aren't allowed to have nightmares. Accidentally left the faucet running at school? Not only do you get expelled, but you also get grounded just because your parents love you so much. In a few instances, they'll even celebrate sending the kid to their room by throwing parties or going out to Chuck E. Cheese's without them.
- From the start of the series, Weiss Schnee heavily implies that, Jacques, her father was abusive towards her and possibly her sister while they were growing up. He received a lot of stress from dealing with the White Fang's terrorist acts against the Schnee Dust Company, so he often would come home from work in a less than pleasant mood. Once we see him in Volume 4, he's revealed to be a merciless sociopath who only cares about the family name - which he, in fact, married into and took for himself - and has no qualms about disinheriting Weiss for disobeying him one too many times.
- There's also Mercury, whose father is all but stated to be an alcoholic who regularly beat him and is the reason he lost his legs, but not for the reason you'd think.